How to Master Portuguese Verb Conjugation in 4 Simple Steps
For English speakers, just the thought of conjugating verbs in Portuguese can be nerve-wracking.
More tenses, more irregular verbs, more rules to follow.
Don’t ever let that discourage you. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and we’re here to make sure your learning experience runs smoothly.
In fact, we think you can learn Portuguese verb conjugation from scratch, in just four simple steps.
- Tools and Tricks to Learn Portuguese Verb Conjugation
- 1. Know who is performing the action
- 2. Identify your Portuguese verb tenses and moods
- 3. Start working on your regular verb endings
- 4. Once you’ve got the hang of your regular conjugations, focus on the most common irregular verbs
Tools and Tricks to Learn Portuguese Verb Conjugation
Before we explore the ins and outs of verb conjugation, here are a few strategies that’ll help make those tenses stick:
- Use an online verb conjugator like Conjuga-me or Reverso to check up on any verb tenses and endings you might be unsure about.
- Pick up a Portuguese textbook. Textbooks are a great resource if you’re looking for some offline reference material. Popular options include 501 Portuguese Verbs (for both Brazilian and European Portuguese learners) and Portuguese Verb Tenses (best suited for Brazilian Portuguese learners).
- Use the FluentU app to your advantage. FluentU will show you Brazilian Portuguese verbs used naturally in authentic videos like news segments, movie trailers, show clips, vlogs and more.
You can also save flashcards directly from videos, and since these flashcards are contextual then you can save verbs in specific conjugations and moods, and see examples of that same grammar form in other videos. The accompanying practice exercises will allow you to reinforce everything you learn from the videos and help you memorize your flashcards.
- Make verb conjugation flashcards. Flashcards (hand-made or in app form) can also help you memorize your verbs. Just pick a few infinitives and try to conjugate them in the tense that you’re focusing on.
- Do grammar drills and online exercises for extra practice. Try this collection of European Portuguese verb conjugation exercises, or this collection of Brazilian Portuguese verb conjugation quizzes.
Now, on to those Portuguese verb rules.
How to Master Portuguese Verb Conjugation in 4 Simple Steps
1. Know who is performing the action
In Portuguese, the person doing the verb will be one of the following:
Eu — I or me
Tu — You, singular (Most commonly used in Portugal, though you hear it said in some parts of Brazil.)
Ele/Ela — He/She
Você — You, singular (This form of “you” is the most commonly used in Brazil. In Portugal, it implies formality.)
Nós — We
Vós — You, plural (Most commonly used in Portugal)
Eles/Elas — They (male)/They (female)
Vocês — You, plural (Most commonly used in Brazil. In Portugal, it implies formality.)
As you can see, the subject of the verb may differ slightly depending on which Portuguese dialect you’re learning. Be sure to double check which rules apply in your case.
2. Identify your Portuguese verb tenses and moods
Knowing your basic grammar rules can help you make sense of the verbs you’re trying to learn.
With that in mind, Portuguese verbs are categorized according to the following moods:
Indicative: A form that denotes a true statement or a positive belief. In Portuguese, the indicative tenses are the present, preterite, past imperfect, pluperfect, future and conditional.
Subjunctive: Used when talking about things that are highly uncertain. The subjunctive consists of the present, past imperfect and future tenses.
Imperative: Denotes a command. Instead of tenses, imperatives have two states: negative and positive.
Take note of those rules and try to keep them in mind once you start revising your conjugations.
3. Start working on your regular verb endings
Portuguese verb endings can seem a little overwhelming at first. For this reason, it’s recommended that you start with regular verb endings before tackling any irregular verbs—they’re easier to suss out as they follow a clear-cut pattern.
To conjugate a regular Portuguese verb, you need to look at its infinitive form. All regular verb infinitives end in -ar, -ir or –er. Remove these endings to get the stem of the verb, then add the endings that correspond to the person doing the action.
We’ll show you how this works in the present tense. You can use the conjugating tools linked above to look at the other tenses for the examples to follow:
For -ar: the verb falar (to speak)
Eu falo — I speak
Tu falas — You speak
Ele/Ela/Você fala — He/She speaks, You speak
Nós falamos — We speak
Vós falais — You all speak
Eles/Elas/Vocês falam — They/You all speak
For -er: the verb correr (to run)
Eu corro — I run
Tu corres — You run
Ele/Ela/Você corre — He/She runs, You run
Nós corremos — We run
Vós correis — You all run
Eles/Elas/Vocês correm — They/You all speak
For -ir: the verb partir (to depart)
Eu parto — I depart
Tu partes — You depart
Ele/ela/você parte — He/She departs, You depart
Nós partimos — We depart
Vós partis — You all depart
Eles/elas/vocês partem — They/You all depart
Regular verb endings for other Portuguese tenses
If you’re visually-inclined, regular verb endings can be organized into tables. Either pick a few regular -ar, -er and -ir verbs and make a grid with the different verb subjects and endings, or opt for a general table with all the regular endings.
To make everything more manageable, work on your regular indicative verb tenses first before tackling the subjunctive. We’ll help you get started by showcasing how you’d put together the verb tables for indicative verbs:
-ar indicative verb endings
-er indicative verb endings
-ir indicative verb endings
4. Once you’ve got the hang of your regular conjugations, focus on the most common irregular verbs
Start with a few of the core essentials, then work your way toward mastering any other irregular verbs that might be of interest.
We’ll get you started with four irregular verbs, conjugated in the present (again, put them through a verb conjugator to identify other tenses):
Ser (to be)
Use ser when talking about permanent characteristics.
Eu sou — I am
Tu és — You are
Ele/ela/você é — He/She is, You are
Nós somos — We are
Vós sois — You all are
Eles/elas/vocês são — They/You all are
Estar (to be)
Like ser, estar means “to be.” However, this verb is used when talking about temporary conditions: places, feelings and so on.
Eu estou — I am
Tu estás — You are
Ele/ela/você está — He/She is, You are
Nós estamos — We are
Vós estais — You all are
Eles/elas/vocês estão — They/You all are
Vir (to come)
Eu venho — I come
Tu vens — You come
Ele/ela/você vem — He/she comes, You come
Nós vimos — We come
Vós vindes — You all come
Eles/elas/vocês vêm — They/You all come
Ter (to have)
Eu tenho — I have
Tu tens — You have
Ele/ela/você tem — He/she has, You have
Nós temos — We have
Vós tendes — You all have
Eles/elas/vocês têm — They/You all have
As you can see, these verbs don’t really follow a fixed pattern. If you like having a visual aid, though, you can still plot them in a grid like we showed you with the other indicative verbs.
To help with memorization, you could try color-coding or highlighting the irregular endings you’ve stumbled across.
This is a lot of groundwork to begin with, so take your time. Everyone works at a different pace, and it may take a while before you venture from regular to irregular verbs.
Just be patient and keep working on those conjugations; you’ll nail them soon enough! As you become more and more fluent, you’ll notice that these verbs will be easier to grasp—it’ll even feel more natural to use them.